I remember the first time I heard this saying. It was right before I started High School. Mum was explaining to me that as one of the 50 children in my final year at the medium sized Primary School I attended, I was a ‘Big Fish’ in a ‘Small Pond’.
Now, being one of the 200 students starting at a large public High School, I would be a ‘Small Fish’ in a ‘Big Pond’.
Looking back I know now, I had no idea at that point just how large the global pond was and what an incredibly small fish I was (and still am).
I have recently been aware though of a disease rippling through my own being and people around me. The disease I would entitle ‘Big-Fish-Small-Pond-disease’. I think the diagnosis of this disease is inclusive of the following symptoms:
- Feeling important because I have what I deem “important” or “powerful” connections
- Feeling as though I’ve reached the top of your field, streaks ahead of anyone else and on your own
- Feeling as though MY story is more interesting and inspirational than anyone elses, therefore believing that MY story must be told above any others’
- Knowing that I have found the solution to the worlds problems, including the devastatingly complex ones like poverty, economic disparity, health inequality, population increase and remembering all my different logons and passwords.
I absolutely do not think this disease is exclusive to any culture, age gap or people group, but I think there are certain factors that can act as catalysts for this disease. I think the modern age of connectivity; creating opportunities for everyone to be pulicising their stories is one of these catalysts.
I attended TEDx Lilongwe this weekend*. I love www.TED.com. If you haven’t been to this site, please go. I love the short, snappy and inspirational talks. I think it is so important that we have space to share ideas, stories, ideas and victories. TEDx is a brilliant format for this.
But again I also think this can be a breeding ground for the ‘Big-Fish-Small-Pond Disease’, where we begin to believe that our initiatives are exclusively the solutions to the very big problems, when we slip to believing that our story has more importance than the person next to us and that we are very important, popular and famous indeed.
I recently began noticing different symptoms of this disease in myself.
I work in the Rehabilitation sector in Lilongwe. Malawi is not a very big country, Lilongwe is not an overly big city and this is not a very big sector. Yet the need for health services in Lilongwe seems endless. I am part of the OT Association of Malawi, I am in regular email contact with a wide range of different supportive people. I find myself slipping into thinking that somehow I could singly hold the solution to the overwhelming resource shortage in this sector. I began thinking that someone I was a keeper of important connections and solutions. I began thinking that from the perspective of this fairly large fish, the pond doesn’t look so big.
I was wrong. Because what I forgot is that not only is this proverbial pond holding over 700, 000 ‘fish’, it is one city in a global pond, holding over 7 billion. None of those fish created themselves, nor did they create the very expansive pond in which they live. We were created.
You see, the biggest and most devastating comorbidities of ‘Big-Fish-Small-Pond-disease’ are arrogance, pride and isolation. As we begin to believe that we personally are the solution to the problem, we impose ourselves in the place of God. We belittle the size of the problems in our world, communities and our own corrupted hearts.
The more I dwell on the words of Jesus, the more I see His subtle (and not so subtle) reminder that we are not Big Fish. He said that the poor would always be with us, He said the meek, poor in Spirit and hungry would be blessed. He said that the small fish would be the bringers of His Kingdom. He said that those who could acknowledge that they’re small fish and accept Him as creator could be part of healing the very polluted pond.
My pastor defines work as ‘anything that is rearranging creation for the flourishing of others’. So, I wanted to specifically address this blog to my friends, family and colleagues working to create fairer-trade, ethical business, good health services, music and drama industries, better education programs, good opportunities for refugees and many other brilliant works. Thank you for the work you do and the heart you pour into it. Please be reminded that the pond is indeed big and we are indeed small. We cannot singularly be the solution to the pollution. But if we seek Him; the Creator of our pond has promised we can share in its redemption.